Tracing The Muisca: Fun Things To Do In Sogamoso, Boyacá & Beyond

Tracing The Muisca:  Fun Things To Do In Sogamoso, Boyacá & Beyond

Are you a sun worshiper? Do you seek solace in nature? Perhaps you are a history buff tracing the footsteps of early conquistadors of the 16th century, hoping to find gold. Regardless of your true interests, Sogamoso (capital of the Sugamuxi province) located in the eastern ranges of the Colombian Andes in Boyacá harbours more treasures than the average traveller perceived.

Also known as the City of Sun, golden rays bespeak the year-round pleasant climate at a constant 20°C. Here, you can find traces of the Muisca civilisation that flourished in ancient Colombia between 600 and 1600 CE, pay respect at the Sun temple, be awed at Colombia’s largest lake - Lake Tota, soak in thermal pools and more! Read on for things to do in Sogamoso and its surrounding Andean villages:

Meet the Muiscas at the Archaeology Museum of Sogamoso

At the Archaeology Museum of Sogamoso, approximately 10-minute walk from downtown, learn about the culture of the Muisca (meaning ‘people’) and other indigenous tribes through some 4,000 pieces of artefacts that showcase their art, music, pan-theology etc. The simplistic museum may seem inadequate at first glance but look closer. Every symbol holds a story or two. Compelling artefacts such as the REAL shrunken heads of cacique (head of tribe) shall reveal how enemies were treated in the past!

Note: Allocate at least 2 hours for a visit in this wonderful space.

Archaeology Museum of Sogamoso (Museo Arqueológico Eliécer Silva Celis)

Address: Calle 9 A 6-45, Sogamoso

Website: Archaeology Museum of Sogamoso

Be a sun worshiper at the Sun Temple

Sun Temple, Sogamoso, Boyaca
Source: Karen Zheng

Founded in 1942 and built on the remains of Sogamoso’s Muisca cemetery, the other highlight within the Archaeology Museum of Sogamoso is the Sun Temple (Templo del Sol). Dedicated to the Sun god, Sué, this replica is a reflection of the most important place of worship for the Muiscas. The original temple was destroyed accidentally by Spanish soldiers but you can still pay your respect to the Sun god and memories of the Muisca here.

Sun Temple (Templo del Sol) within Archaeology Museum of Sogamoso

Address: Calle 9 A 6-45, Sogamoso

Website: Sun Temple, Sogamoso

Visit Lake Tota, largest lake in Colombia

Lake Tota, Boyaca
Source: Karen Zheng

Lake Tota (Lago de Tota) - source of the Upia River - is the largest and highest lake in Colombia and once an important religious center for the Muisca culture. Legends abound at this natural fresh water formation, detailing how Lake Tota was formed by the hands of ancient ancestors, and there’s a legendary black, aquatic animal inhabitant known as Monster of Lake Tota (diablo bellena). With an area of ~55 km2 and maximum depth of 60 m, Tota means ‘land for farming’, and rainbow trouts known commonly as ‘trucha’ is a local speciality. Don’t miss the picturesque Aquitania town on the shores of the lake and pay tribute to onion growers of the region.

Frolick at Playa Blanca (White Beach)

Playa Blanca, Tota, Boyaca
Source: Karen Zheng

On the east shore of Lake Tota lies Playa Blanca, literally translated as White Beach. Located approximately 1-hour drive from the city center of Sogamoso, one will sight the glistening silvery blue waters of Lake Tota, not unlike jewels, prior to arriving at your destination. Playa Blanca resembles one of the white sand beaches by the seaside, but don’t be mistaken! Lying at over 3,000m above sea level, this is one of the highest beaches in the world and you will be reminded if you dared to venture into the cold waters. At this altitude, sunbathers will get the tan you desired soon. Otherwise, pile on the sunblock as the rays can be potent in the Andean. Other activities include going on a boat cruise, fishing excursions or chill by the local restaurant on the fringe of the beach.

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Iza

Nicknamed the ‘Green Nest of Boyacá’, Iza is a charming colonial town most famous for two things: desserts and hot spring pools. If you have a sweet tooth, this is one place you must not miss in Boyacá! Visit during the weekend, especially Sunday afternoon, as that’s when bakers present rows upon rows of colourful cakes, pies and sugary snacks such as obleas, so dulce (sweet) that bees buzz around the food stalls at the main square! While you are here, check out one of the local cafes and have a cup of Colombian coffee - quality guaranteed.

Soak in healing, hot spring pools

In the language of the Muisca, Iza means ‘place of healing’. Is it a coincidence that Iza boosts hot spring pools that are known for their healing properties? Perhaps the Muiscas named this town precisely for the therapeutic waters here. Imagine soaking in pools from the same source as the people did hundreds of years ago!

There are various options for a dip in the thermal pools but the most popular choice would be at Piscina Erika, located at the fringe of the town center. Take a 15-minute stroll to this thermal pool and enjoy the scenery while you are at it. With a concrete pool for adults and children pool, the pristine Piscina Erika looks somewhat like a normal club pool but the hot sulphurous water comes from the spring above. So, go on and soak in that healing water!

Piscina Erika

Address: Iza, Boyaca

Phone: +57 310 8810731

Website: Piscina Erika

Spend a day in the most beautiful town in Boyacá

Often compared to Villa de Leyva, Mongui was titled the most beautiful town in Boyacá some years back! From the looks of it, the beauty has been well-preserved along with the colonial architecture, traditional practices and daily wears! White houses with green balconies lined the streets, and the sight of locals in ruana (wool wraps) and hats is common. Nestled amongst mountains, Mongui has inspired artists, poets and writers, etc., and has been featured in films and books.

Sit by the 17th century Calicanto bridge and contemplate its materials; a combination of clay, lime and bull’s blood!

Also known as the manufacturing town of soccer balls, football factories are aplenty in Mongui and open to visitors who are curious with the process of ball-making. Leather products here are also priced reasonably for those looking for a decent souvenir! If time permits, stay at least one night and embark on a hiking adventure at Páramo de Ocetá to discover a variety of frailejones, which are native to Colombia.

Sogamoso, Sugamuxi: Treasures in the land

When travelling around Colombia, especially at Bogota and the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, tales of El Dorado deriving from the Muisca civilisation are bound to surface. Unlike the early conquistadors of the 16th century, this journey to Sogamoso and its surrounding towns is not about the lost city of gold nor the initiation ceremonies where precious items made of gold and gems would be thrown into a lake as an offering to the gods.

Sogamoso presents an interesting blend of old and new. This city in the mountain has a bustling, modern center with beautiful street art but walk a couple of streets towards the surrounding neighbourhoods and you will find quaint streets lined with single story houses. Flowers, or rather weeds adorned the roofs of some, interestingly presenting the beauty of free spirit rather than that of disrepair.

Venture further into her neighbouring towns and countryside, and one will discover the unique charms of Sugamuxi. On this lone journey, I’ve found treasures of the land, held close to heart by the Muiscas from centuries before and for many years to come. So, put aside El Dorado for the time being. Come, explore and find your own treasures.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Think travel, writing, photography and food. In no absolute order of preferences, these are aspects in life that excite and motivate me. I am always caught in situations that confound me but...Read more

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